Few things bond people faster than food.
We spoke with Michele Polci, director of citywide catering sales at Caesars Entertainment, about how her team meets the growing expectation for experiential culinary in meetings and incentives. Here’s what she had to say.
How can planners use F&B during networking or breakout sessions to bring attendees together?
The beauty of having face-to-face meetings is that they provide a platform for planners to use a variety of different events to bond attendees. Depending on the meeting, and frequency of events, planners can be faced with a number of first time attendees. Food and beverage is a great way to break the ice.
The new industry term used within the past year has been “experiential,” which is going a step beyond static food stations and incorporating action into the mix. I believe it will continue to define events in the future. Imagine the types of conversations that develop in the crowd when a bartender is smoking whiskey, or torching citrus to bring out the essence in the oil for the cocktail. Conversations begin, and moments happen between attendees and staff.
Experiential food and beverage can be easily accomplished with craft cocktails and coffee bars. A caprese salad is great but how about the experience of a chef pulling the mozzarella in front of you and being able to customize the types of oils, vinegars and salts to your preference? It gets everyone talking to one another and helps build relationships.
In what ways can planners incorporate local traditions and culture into F&B experiences during shorter meetings or events?
Planners have a huge internal pressure to not let grass grow under their feet and recreate the wheel to keep events fresh and exciting. I encourage people to embrace the location of the meeting and rely of the chef’s interpretation or regional cuisine. Unless the event is held in the same location every year, this flexibility works out to the planner and attendees benefit.
The chefs are going to use the best seasonal ingredients and sustainable food in their area. Local traditions and culture can be incorporated, from the way its prepared to the final presentation. Breaks are a great way to highlight this as well. Think a of a beach theme in Atlantic City, with salt water taffy, warm pretzel and frozen lemonade, or a nature break in Lake Tahoe of raw nuts, organic dried fruit and buffalo jerky. The options are endless.
Any tips for achieving F&B customization at large-scale conferences?
Planners should share their goals and objectives of what needs to be accomplished with the property catering services team at the start of the process. It is best to start with an idea of what customization you are looking for and your budget. Banquet menus are great guides but most banquet chefs in our industry love stepping outside of the menus, being creative and trying something new.